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60 killed in Iraq ahead of Ramadan

Weekend violence across Iraq killed 60 people, officials said today, just days ahead of the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when insurgents typically step up their attacks.

world Updated: Aug 08, 2010 22:07 IST

Weekend violence across Iraq killed 60 people, officials said today, just days ahead of the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when insurgents typically step up their attacks.

The unrest has fuelled concerns about security here-- more than 100 people have died so far this month -- amid a massive pullout of American forces, although US officers insist Iraqi soldiers and police are up to the task.

Iraq is also grappling with a five-month-long political impasse after March 7 parliamentary elections which failed to produce a clear winner, ushering in as yet fruitless coalition negotiations between leading parties.

The death toll from three explosions in the southern port city of Basra on Saturday evening, which officials said were caused by bombs and not a power generator short circuit as first believed, rose to 43 on Sunday.

"We received 43 corpses, and 185 people have been wounded," said Dr Riyadh Abdelamir, director of Basra province's health department, adding that women and children were among the injured.

Ali al-Maliki, the head of the Basra provincial council's security committee, said the deaths, from a double car bombing and a third roadside bomb which caused a large fire, were "the result of terrorist action."

The city's police command had on Saturday attributed the explosion to the short-circuit of a communal power generator.

Eyewitnesses at the crowded Ashaar market in the centre of Basra, Iraq's third largest city, said there were three explosions between 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm, but the cause was not clear according to their accounts.

"I saw people running in all directions, even over those who were knocked to the ground by the force of the blasts," said Khulud Al-Hussein, 37, a housewife who was buying goods at the market.

Kadhim Ali Jaffar, a 61-year-old street salesman, harrowingly described the death of his son, Jawad, 25, also a market salesman.

"He did not come back after the explosion so I started to look for him in the hospitals," said Jaffar, crying and shaking as he recounted the incident.

"The first one told me he was dead and in the morgue. When I went there I found a young man but he wasn't my son. I continued to look until I found him in the fridge at another hospital."

Today morning, meanwhile, a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at a petrol station in Ramadi, west of Baghdad and capital of Anbar province, killing six people, medical and security officials said. Two women and a child were among those killed, while 29 others were wounded.